Thursday, March 13, 2014

Snowy Owl in Louisiana?



The Louisiana birding community is abuzz with discussion of a photograph of an apparently all-white owl perched on a baldcypress knee along the shore of the Amite River Tuesday.

The prevailing opinion at the moment is that it is a Snowy Owl.  Louisiana birders have been searching for a Snowy all winter, since there is an historic irruption of them this winter, with birds as far south as Vicksburg, MS, and Jacksonville, FL so far.  I personally have made several trips to the Lakefront Airport to scan from the terminal second floor, since Snowies have a track record of liking airports (most famously Logan Airport in Boston), and coastlines in general.

The photos can be seen here:

https://plus.google.com/photos/102661195981062894947/albums/5990117201823250449?sort=1

The main uncertainty about the photographed bird is the possibility of an albino or leucistic (another condition confering white coloration) Barred Owl, for which a cypress swamp would be much more reasonable as habitat.  Snowies are tundra birds, and are normally only seen in wide open habitats.  The Louisiana State Museum has a committee that evaluates unusual records (the Louisiana Bird Records Committee); they will ultimately try to find ways to solve that question.

Keep your eyes open- winter birds from the far north sometimes linger well into the spring when they do show up around here, so we may several more weeks to find another!

Peter

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